TWPT: Tell me about what music means to you in your life. How far back does your love of music and performing go and how has it crafted your life over the years?
WR: Iíve always felt a strong connection to music. I loved messing around on our old piano when I was a kid, picking out melodies and making up my own. And Iíve always sung - since as long as I can remember. Iíd make up little tunes as I was walking, or sing myself into a trance as I hung out in our garden with the faeries. But I didnít begin actually performing until, at age 15, I auditioned for my High School musical and won the lead role! Then there was no holding me back. I loved it. I got a part time job so that I could afford private singing lessons, and the following year I played Dorothy in The wizard of Oz. Lots of fun! By this stage I was hooked and all I could think about was singing. After high school I joined a local musical theatre troop and took part in more productions, all the time training my voice. And then, when I went on to college (to study literature) I teamed up with a fellow musician and began to sing covers in cafes etc, which led to me becoming a jazz singer, which I did for years.
TWPT: When did you start writing/composing your own music and what inspired you to step out and create your own songs?
WR: I find Santa Fe extremely inspiring. I love the close proximity to Nature, where I can head up into the mountains and hike every day. There are lots of similarities between Melbourne and Santa Fe - big dramatic skies and sunsets, nice dry heat, vibrant culture. But right now this smaller city suits me much better than the huge metropolis of Melbourne. I spend a lot more time in wilderness now that I live in New Mexico, and I think that has a huge effect on my creative flow. The effect of the landscape of New Mexico may not be obvious on my Persephone album, but it certainly is on my previous album Black Snake, which I wrote while on a retreat in New Mexico, a couple of years before I moved here.
TWPT: Letís talk about your latest release Persephone. Your bio says that it is the culmination of over 12 years of work. Take us back to where Persephone first became a concept in your mind and tell us about how it came into existence.
WR: Iíve been interested in this myth since my mid to late teens, and have found it deeply healing over the years. This tale of a girl who overcomes trauma - who traverses the realm of the Underworld - and not only survives, but thrives, really spoke to me. I reference the myth on a couple of songs from my second album, Deity, which came out in 1998, so Persephone really has been there as an inspiration for a long time. But about 12, nearly 13 years ago I teamed up with a friend and fellow musician, Elissa Goodrich, with the plan to create a kind of Ďavant gardeí musical theatre production based on the myth. Although that vision never came fully to light, it did plant the seed of what became my Persephone album. A few of the songs on the album hark back to those early days, and Elissa remains a feature musician (vibraphone, marimba, percussion) on the finished work.
TWPT: As to the album itself tell me about the concept behind Persephone and how the songs are tied together to form a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
WR: As the story of the cycles of Nature, the myth itself is beautifully put together. So as far as structure of my album goes, I really just honoured the trajectory of the myth. But my intention with Persephone was to go deeper than simply telling the tale. I was interested in exploring the emotional journeys of both Persephone and her grieving mother Demeter. I wanted to enter into their characters, explore the subtleties of their motivations, their responses to the upheaval and trauma of Persephoneís abduction. Psychologically, they both go through epic changes - Persephone from the sweet and naive maiden to the Queen of the Underworld, and Demeter from the golden Mother Goddess to the grieving and rage filled, crone-like, death-wielding Goddess. To help move the narrative forward, I use a ĎGreek Chorusí consisting of five women from various places around the world (Athens, Albuquerque, Melbourne and Portugal) to act as Ďpriestessesí to the goddesses. And Hekate plays a huge role in moving the action forward. She is really the voice of the wisdom of Nature. She knows that things need to change, and she helps to guide both Demeter and Persephone through their processes of transformation. Sheís a goddess of the liminal spaces, of the threshold. I chant her parts in Greek and whisper them in English, to add a mystical, magical, otherworldly energy to her presence.
TWPT: Did you know that the project was going to be large enough to be a double disc CD from the beginning and was that daunting knowing that?
WR: It definitely wasnít my initial intention to create a double album, but I had to honour the project as it evolved. There was no way that I was going to fit all that I wanted to - every nuance of the myth - onto a single disc. Even with 2 discs, there were still parts of the myth that I had to streamline and simplify - especially Demeterís experience in Eleusis. I honoured this in a single song, but I could easily have written another five or six songs for this part of the myth. Really, that probably goes for any point in the story. But as in every work of art, I needed to choose my focus. Once I decided on a double album, there was actually a sense of relief. I now had the space to do this myth justice.
WR: Thereís both good and bad to it. It certainly helps people to discover independent music, but it certainly doesnít pay the bills. We get a pittance when anyone streams our music. Ideally, fans will discover my music, then put their money where their hearts are and actually pay to download an album or buy a CD or turn up at a gig. I used to be able to pay the rent with my online CD sales. Not so anymore, and thatís directly because of streaming, because I actually have a much larger fan base these days.
TWPT: As you approached the end of the Persephone project in terms of recording, mixing etc. were you happy or sad to see such a long-term project coming to an end?
WR: There was a great sense of excitement and relief in those final days in the mastering studio in Melbourne. But I donít feel that the project has come to an end. I feel like Iíve just birthed a child, and itís up to me now to nurture it, tour it around the world, make sure that the world knows about it. Iím still fully committed to the album, and fully in the process of honouring it. Now itís up to the next stage, of promotion. My husband Tim and I have begun making film clips for the album, which opens a whole otherlayer of connection with the myth.
Two film clips are already finished andavailable to view up on my YouTube channel.
TWPT: Persephone was recorded in both Australia and in Santa Fe. Tell me about the recording process being spread out over two countries and those other musicians who played with you on the album.
WR: Yeah, it was pretty tricky working across two continents - in fact three when we factor in that Callie Galatiís vocals were recorded in Athens! Thankfully I had two excellent technicians on board - my husband Timothy Van Diest here in Santa Fe, and my long term musical collaborator Adam Calaitzis at Toyland Studios in Melbourne. Adam is a top notch producer, and made it so much easier for Tim and I, instructing us how to set things up in our Santa Fe studio in a way that would then slot in seamlessly when we were back in Melbourne. I began to give the album form by laying down the initial guide tracks of vocal and guitar here in Santa Fe. I also did sketches of all of the 5-part harmony chorus tracks, and then sent them to Callie Galatia in Athens, Melody Moon in Melbourne, and Mauro Woody in Albuquerque. The wonderful Cyoakha Grace, a very dear longterm friend and wonderful musician, just happened to be visiting us here in Santa Fe, so of course I got here down in the studio and put her to work. She was so much fun! And my friend Talie Helene just happened to be visiting Toyland during one of my sessions, so she jumped behind the mic too. It was all very organic.
In the year or so leading up to the recording, Elissa and I had spent a fair bit of time rehearsing and brainstorming ideas and arrangements, so she was already partially familiar with quite a bit of the material. Iíd sent her the guide tracks to rehearse to, so this meant that we only needed a couple of weeks of really dedicated rehearsal back in Melbourne before she was ready to record. She did all her parts in crazy record time - two epic days at Toyland studio for all the percussion, Marimba and Vibes. If you take a listen to the album, youíll realise just how impressive that is, and what it says about her excellence as a musician.
The same applies to Rachel Samuel. Weíd done a few rehearsals over skype, but had very little Ďin personí rehearsal time before recording her parts. But weíve worked together for so many years that she just comes up with exactly what I need each time. For all the musicians, often I required a very specific part, but there were also times that each musician would improvise and bring their own magic to each track. It was very collaborative, lots of back and forth.
TWPT: Now that Persephone is out there in the world what are your feelings on it being complete?
WR: Iím excited, watching it gain momentum and find its way to
those who are meant to hear it. And honouring it through these film clips that
weíre making is so satisfying. (Iím hoping
TWPT: Are you performing Persephone live as you are out on tour?
WR: Yes certain tracks come across well live, so Iíll incorporate them into my set. Others really do need the chorus, or the percussion. But Iíve also been running workshops, both in the lead up to the creation of Persephone, and now that the album is out, that takes people through the myth, utilising my songs at various points. Thatís been a really satisfying way to share this work. My band and I will also be performing the full album again in a few upcoming shows - particularly the Persephone launch in Sydney, Australia on Friday December 13th.
TWPT: Any closing thoughts youíd like to share about your music or Persephone with the readers of TWPT?
WR: Iíd like to say a big thank you to TWPT for taking the time to delve into this work. And Iíd like to thank all my many fans, old and new, for supporting this rather unusual project! Also, just a reminder that you can download the lyric booklet for Persephone from my website, and that thereís a whole page of interesting info on my website about this project. Oh, and donít forget to tune into my monthly online Full Moon Magic concerts on my Patreon page! You can find all the info on my website www.wendyrule.com
TWPT: Thank you very much for talking to us here at TWPT about your new album Persephone and giving us a glimpse into the creative process behind the music that we hear. We wish you much success with this new album as it finds its way to your many fans and beyond that to new listeners just discovering your work.